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Japan to raise maximum age for army recruits

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FILE PHOTO: Japan Ground Self Defense Force members take part in their joint exercise, named Northern Viper 17, with U.S. Marine Corps at Hokudaien exercise area in Eniwa, on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan, August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s military plans to raise the maximum age for new recruits in a bid to cope with a shrinking pool of potential soldiers due to the country’s low birth rate and fast-ageing population.

The maximum age for enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officer applicants will be raised to 32 from 26 from Oct. 1 to secure “a stable supply of Self-Defense Forces (military) personnel amid a declining pool of recruits due to the recently declining birth rate”, the defense ministry said.

The number of Japanese people aged between 18 and 26 years old – the current age band for recruits – is forecast to fall below eight million by 2046 from 11 million this year and a peak of 17 million in 1994.

The declining numbers, along with competition from the private sector due to a labor shortage, mean the SDF has been unable to fulfill recruitment quotas for the past five years, with the navy facing an especially tough time.

“Due to the declining birthrate and greater advancement into higher education, the environment of recruiting SDF personnel is increasingly severe,” the ministry said in its 2017 white paper, echoing a lament heard for several years running.

It will also increase the percentage of female recruits..

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